Polish American Women: Writing Her Self

A lecture by Prof. Grażyna J. Kozaczka

November 17, 2021 at 6:30PM (PT) on ZOOM

Lecture organized by UWPSEC and sponsored by Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in LA.

ABOUT THE LECTURE: This talk, Polish American Women: Writing Her Self, will apply a literary lens to a discussion of identity/self of immigrant and ethnic women. What is it that women fiction writers reveal to us about their Polish American characters? What kind of immigrant or ethnic woman appears in their fiction and what do we learn about constructing ethnic and gender identity while drawing from both worlds: the old world of Polish traditions and the new world of the American present? Questions like these reside at the center of my most recent book, Writing the Polish American Woman in Postwar Ethnic Fiction, because they have been a part of my own search of identity – identity of an immigrant woman from Poland, who left her home country as an adult and had to reconstruct her self in the United States. As a literary historian, I turned to literature for answers. My lecture will sketch some of the answers I found on the pages of novels and short stories written by Polish American women authors over the last eighty plus years.

Since this lecture cannot do justice to all important Polish American writers, I will focus on three pivotal figures: Monica Krawczyk, the matriarch of Polish American literature, Leslie Pietrzyk and Karolina Waclawiak. Each of them belongs to a different generation and constructs different immigrant and ethnic women, yet all of them help us understand what it means to be a Polish American woman, how she fits with both the ethnic and the dominant culture, how she relates to the original homeland, what she values, and especially how she struggles to find empowerment at the intersection  of powerful forces that limit her opportunities and restrict her freedom.